Tag Archives: knowledge

… storytelling and the primary world …

Knowledge is not the rare gem it used to be. Then again, without recording, analysing, sorting, summarising, calculating and disseminating mega quantities of data we’d have none of our ingenious toys to play with. Without statistics our systems would grind to a halt, and, yes, it’s annoying that almost daily yet another quantitative study announces what’s good, or detrimental, for our well-being. Thankfully, none of the churned out evidenced facts can make a claim on meaning. Humans remain idiosyncratic. We apply messy values to our life-choices, and we frequently ignore the logical road signs of scientific landscapes, or blank out the hassle of linear time.

Wind

 

Instead, we are tossed along by emotional encounters, the unexpected, are awestruck after a quantum leap of intuition, and are generally guided by what appeals to a body/mind that likes the stimulation of nature, her moods, seasons, the phases of day and night suggesting action or repose, like the in-and-out-breath, between which we may catch a glimpse of a dream, a relevant truth, an eternity even. Hardly anyone I know is without this conflict: liking order and control, as well as yearning for rapport with the dance and rhythm of nature.

Over 300 years ago G W von Leibnitz, who could’ve been a poet, was gripped by an emerging idea, to collate all human knowledge and to systematize it via a common language. Computers would have been his bliss. He loved to correspond with most scholars in Europe during this baroque era. And he might have gone some way to explain the whole universe in the hope to solve every conceivable problem. Paradoxically, he also stated … the universe had to be imperfect otherwise it would not be distinct from God. Near the end of his life, Leibniz wrote in a letter that combining metaphysics with mathematics and science through universal characters would require creating what he called:

a kind of general algebra in which all truths of reason would be reduced to a kind of calculus. At the same time, this would be a kind of universal language or writing, though infinitely different from all such languages which have thus far been proposed; for the characters and the words themselves would direct the mind, and the errors — excepting those of fact — would only be calculation mistakes. It would be very difficult to form or invent this language or characteristic, but very easy to learn it without any dictionaries …

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristica_universalis

I’m not doing honour to this remarkable man, so here is a sketch of a biography … http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Leibniz.html … should you have the patience to read this, note the time it took for letters between Leibniz and Newton to be delivered, which makes me admire the tenacity of these scientists.

The notion of a calculus for a universal language intrigues and troubles me. Nature speaks a language everyone understands. Key-terms of my mother tongue (see my last blog post) easily bring back the plot of land my toddler feet bounced across. The stories I most enjoy writing grow organically, with tendrils of their roots nourished by the alpine woods and hills of my childhood.

But things change. Data collation is now available to authors, promising control, over marketing, though formulas and blueprints are now offered for the creative process, like how to write a novel in four week. Imagination serves many masters and is not easily controlled – its life-sap flows through all forms. Totempole 4

We can only explore everything known continuously in fresh situations and move on, in the way that children and creative people place a familiar object into a new context. The play of imagination destroys and creates, and has the power to shift the meaning of our past, present and future.

‘There is the truth of truth as well as the truth of fact.’                   D.H. Lawrence

Being part of the dynamic process of evolution (which Philippa Rees ingeniously terms ‘Involution’ in her book of that title) we are walked by the tightrope of ecstasy and pain, of dependencies on environments and people, for better or worse, dependencies on beliefs too, mostly not by choice, but driven by binding needs.

Couple shadow series, 3a small

We face exploitation, conflict, sudden change, harmony alternating with phases of chaos – the story of life, a record marked in DNA and every tree trunk. Instigating control, or preaching harmony while shading off the dark, the chaos, the collective psyche of humanity, will only repeat the distortions of otherwise genuine messages from enlightened thinkers, sages and prophets.

It would serve us as well to teach our children how to accept the dark and how to deal with conflict. Reading the collected folk tales of the Grimm Brothers to children would be a start.

Dore - public-domain-image

Dore – public-domain-image

The inspired P L Travers, author of Mary Poppins, had a talent for highlighting the vital function of myth, symbol and story. She shared her reflections in a collection of essays that appeared in Parabola Magazine. The essays were later published in a book, titled: ‘What the Bee Knows.’

She wrote … The Primary World, in order to go on living, needs the things man cannot create – the earth with all its composted dead, the rain that raineth every day, the seasons, nightfall, silence – and the ear free of all pulsation but that of its own blood.

… The Primary World is that which has never been invented but came into being, along with the blood stream, as a legacy from the Authors who, according to Blake, are in Eternity. All the rest is manmade, or as Tolkien has it – sub-created.

As a writer I sub-create and grow stories from within, using images and words that resonate with personal experiences, myths and visions that provide an ever-changing way of relating to myself, to others and the worlds we share. So when Travers says … nothing is truly known until it is known organically … this chimes for me.

We forget – a happy fault – imagine there was no pause between one dream and another, no night. We forget so we can re-member creatively, which takes practice. We walk on star dust and ancestral bones that inform our bloodstream, as much as the stories of this world nourish our imagination, continuously re-shuffling our psyche, which explains our function as being the bridge between matter and spirit. Every bee knows this.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

What the Bee Knows, by P L Travers http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Bee-Knows-Arkana-Travers/dp/0140194665/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376737128&sr=1-3&keywords=what+the+bee+knows   Wow, no reviews

Parabola Magazine: http://www.parabola.org/

‘Involution’ by Philippa Rees: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/30171.Philippa_Rees

 

Images are mine unless the captures say otherwise.

6 Comments

Filed under Blog

… the mystery of character versus genre …

Flicker, flicker, speed, speed – time is flying – here is a genre – an inviting golden bowl – let’s drop a story into it. A well-defined genre promises the best route to financial success for many aspiring writers.

the golden bowl of genre Human traits that make up characters are unfathomable in their combination, which is why we traditionally veer to an index of types. The adage of the writing guru – don’t tell, show – suggests character is revealed through traits that imply qualities. Traits fascinate us, but if they are mechanical in their emotional and logical processes, they seldom surprise. In such case the page-turning tension must be provided by the plot.

During the nineteenth century’s advent of psychology and individuation many writers moved away from the Greek model of plot-driven stories. Curiosity shifted to the complex inner life of characters and their individual way of creating meaning was employed to unfold narratives.

The search for a unique self beyond the collectively orientated ego personality is relatively new, and while time-engraved archetypal energies hold us in their emotional grip, we have now psychological maps to help us become more conscious of their compelling powers, more conscious of our personality, which, for the writer, informs their fictional characters and opens new worlds and new choices. Irrespective of the rich psychological and scientific knowledge available to us, the process of character formation present us with the greatest mysteries of our time – as exciting as discovering new territory, new planets, new eyes on the universe.

Here I am making up a scene from scratch:

He stiffly dragged his feet along the polished marble floor of the shopping mall, his head forward as if pulled by a rope, though his eyes did not focus forward, nor up or down, they swivelled, left, right, left right, alert for what? Alert for anyone who might observe him? Nobody did – apart from one person who sat still on a seat moulded into the stone replica of a toy train. She raised her eyes from her book and looked straight at him …

Now as reader, and as the writer of this entry into a scene without blueprint for a story, I’m curious – where is he heading, where is this going? I search for a deeper layer, a narrative unfolding from the mysterious core of the character walking through the mall. I want a substance to chew on, to extract a flavour from his unique world.

The woman’s stare broke his set rhythm of surveillance. His face contorted in fear, his feet lost touch with the marble floor, sailed on air, while his arms flattered like duck wings failing to lift. All he could think of before his fell flat was – she knows, she knows I’m not present in this body. All he perceived were veins of light in a glittering darkness. He chose to vacate.

Are you hurt? While approaching the sprawled body of the man, the woman shot a stern glance at her boy who stood by guiltily. She had noticed him drop the sweet wrap. She had noticed the man stepping on the slippery cellophane. She had caught his eyes – and what she saw in that instant had made her shiver …  

I’m not going to follow up this scene. Anyone who reads this is welcome to do so. It would give me a thrill.

We all enjoy our stock characters and their antics, types set into situations and conflicts we can readily identify with, heroes we can like, villains we can despise. We enjoy themes that fall into definite genres that entertain us away from tedious daily concerns. I’m not knocking these stories. I enjoy them myself.

But hey you, all writers out there, why not take a risk and be drawn to the mystery of the unpredictable that challenges you to think in new ways, why not evoke characters who, even while using known containers, allow their (your) unconscious past and future to fill in the content, characters who explore their personal experience to a depth where it becomes universal, characters who play with time and space and are directed from their inner spirit, even when it requires a new container?

In my writing, I like the adventure of discovery, a nut to crack. I like to allow my character to walk ahead and unfold the story, and if it spills over the frame of a convenient genre, so be it.

P1100981And here my little gripes with how-to-does:

The advice-filled internet spheres turn and turn like gyres.

Answers sum up being and are full of promised abundance – yet they are dead.

Questions sum up becoming and are full of challenging limitations – yet they are alive.

 

 

‘One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.’

Andre Gide

8 Comments

Filed under Blog

… Is a parent ever unemployed ? …

Something new – AVAAZ encourages individual campaigns now . I started one. Click the link and read the proposal, and if you like the idea vote for it.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Put_parents_on_the_payroll/?fHNQuab&pv=0

Yes, it makes sense – put parents on the payroll – tied to the attendance of courses.  Here some more thoughts as to why …

Family structures are changing for a variety of reasons. No use blaming parents and home-makers that are unable to cope. No good romanticising the past. Parents and carers need  support in this time of flux.  New structures are emerging, single parents or carers, for example, seek families of heart and mind. Our policy-makers don’t seem to take note of this phenomenon. Think of independent units around a communal space that would allow socialising and the sharing of skills.

And why not use the psychological knowledge that has been available for decades? Why is this knowledge not disseminated to parents? Corporations require further training from their employees, offer courses that teach people skills, because they realise these skills improve business.

Parenting is important business, without question the most important one.  Years ago, when I was involved with Parent-Link, sharing skills, I had an idea how to create more opportunities for parents and raise their status. You can read about it by clicking on the AVAAZ link above.  And please vote, or come up with your own ideas.

Present social policies often force a mother or father to beg alms from the state, become unemployed. Is a parent ever unemployed?  Children are the future and must concern us all. I meet many parents, who, even with heightened awareness, tenacity, creativity and sacrifice, struggle to stay sane.

Thanks

3 Comments

Filed under Blog